Egyptian producer and scriptwriter Mohamed Hefzy and Tunisian-Egyptian actress Hend Sabry have been awarded France's Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) last week in a ceremony which took place at the Embassy of France in Cairo.
President of the Cairo International Film Festival Hefzy was given the grade of Chevalier (Knight) of the prestigious award, while Sabry was given the grade of Officier (Officer) as a promotion to the Chevalier award she received in 2014.
Both Hefzy and Sabry have revealed the news on their respective social media accounts.
Originally known as Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the prestigious distinction was established by the French Minister of Culture in 1957. Its purpose is to recognise outstanding personalities for their contributions to the arts and literature or for promoting these fields.
The high order of France, which is bestowed by the French Ministry of Culture, is given to personalities in recognition of their contributions to the development of Egypt's cultural scene and the bridges that they create between France and their respective countries. The three grades of the Order of Arts and Letters include Chevalier, Officier, and the highest rank of Commandeur (Commander).
Very few Egyptian figures have been awarded the Knight of the Order of Arts and Culture.
They include Egyptian novelist and Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz; novelist and journalist Gamal El-Ghitani; visual artist and women's Activist Inji Aflatoun; playwright, director, and head of the D-CAF and Orient Productions Ahmed El-Attar; novelist Alaa Al-Aswany; as well as composer and conductor Hisham Gabr.
Previous international recipients of the order include American actor George Clooney, Australian singer Kylie Minogue, American film director Tim Burton, American fiction writer Philipp Meyer, Russian novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu, Turkish writer Elif Şafak, among numerous others.
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Sabry’s career began in 1994 at the age of 14, when she debuted in the Tunisian production Silence of the Palaces (Samt Al-Qosoor) by Director Moufida Tlatli. Her first appearance in Egyptian cinema was in the 2002 production A Teenager's Diary (Muzakirat Murahiqua), a role that paved her way to stardom.
Her later roles include starring in films such as A Citizen, a Detective, and a Thief (Mowaten wi Mokhber wi Haramy) in 2002, Downtown Girls (Banat West Al-Balad) in 2005, and Ibrahim El-Abyad in 2009.
She also appeared in Yacoubian Building (Oumaret Yacoubian, 2006), alongside an extensive cast of Egypt's biggest stars.
Her portrayal of an HIV positive woman in Asmaa (2011) brought her several awards.
Sabry's more recent roles include films such as The Parrot (short, 2016), Life is Beautiful (2017), The Treasure (2017), The Passage (2017), Noura's Dream (2019), and The Blue Elephant (2019).
Apart from her many achievements in cinema, Sabry is active in social and humanitarian work.
She has been working closely with the UN World Food Programme on raising awareness about hunger in the region since 2010.
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Since 2013, Egyptian Screenwriter and Producer Mohamed Hefzy has been a board member of the Egyptian Chamber of Cinema and continues to represent and lobby for independent filmmakers in Egypt and throughout the Arab world.
Hefzy has served as a jury member previously at the Abu Dhabi International Film Festival in 2011, as well as several other local and Arab festivals.
Screen International named him as the only Arab among 30 future leaders in film production in 2013.
His films have been featured widely in major film festivals, including Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Sundance, and Toronto, and have won more than 80 international awards.
In 2016, one of his productions, Clash, was chosen as the opening film of the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival.
Hefzy is the founder of Film Clinic, now considered one of the leading production companies in Egypt and the Arab world.
Aside from his work as a writer and producer, Hefzy is a film activist who offers workshops and training programs conducted in cooperation with international organisations and institutes.
Earlier this year, Hefzy was listed in 'Variety500', an index released by Variety that includes the 500 most influential business leaders shaping the global media industry.
Hefzy has also served as president of the Cairo International Film Festival's past three editions (the 40th, 41st, and 42nd). During his tenure, the festival reached high ranks on the international cinema scene, with many developments boosting its networking within the industry.
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